First Volleys Fired


I saw a joke during the Olympics that said the British Army stopped being successful when enemies stopped standing directly in front of them to get shot. I've never understood how war worked in those days. Could no one command his side to duck at the last minute? Was that not honorable? Anyway, both sides in the labor negotiations have fired their first volley, and the owners have found that the players will no longer stand in front of them to get shot. Yet.

You saw the proposal the players presented yesterday. It calls for a cut in money they get from hockey related revenue from the current 57% to 54%. It artificially holds down that revenue the next three years even if revenues grow in that time. It also allows for a return to this current CBA if things grow at the right rate. It also calls for that cash that will be saved by the owners to be distributed to the struggling clubs in an expanded revenue sharing program.

It is PR genius by Donald Fehr. They look sympathetic to the cause of the smaller market teams and willing to help, which is supposedly what this is all about instead of being about the rich teams just trying to keep more of their money. Because it would never be about that ever! But this isn't totally charitable on the players' part, which is fine. Players would benefit from more teams able to pay out higher contracts. More competition and demand for players on the market will only drive up their worth. But hey, that's cool .That's what we're all aiming for anyway.

It also splits the owners, or it attempts to. Here is an offer that clearly helps the smaller owners while not exactly putting a boatload of more cash into the rich owners' pockets. It probably looks pretty good to those struggling teams. They might vouch for it, or be tempted by it. Divide and conquer, right?

It also helps the players win the PR war, as they seem the more reasonable of the two sides and the more willing to address the problem in an adult fashion. But what's so disheartening about this is that the owners could give a flying fuck if they win the PR war or not. It doesn't matter. They can look like a bunch of despots for months, and yet they know we'll all be back and the players will eventually play. That is if they're willing to test that, and there really isn't a reason they shouldn't be. They can hold out longer, they'll recover better. I mean seriously, am I going to get a real job?

I see a lot of ire directed at Gary Bettman, but it should be pointed out as it has been by many others that he's just an employee. Getting angry at him is like getting angry at the White House Press Secretary for legislation you don't like. He's just delivering the message of his boss or bosses. Get angry at the men directing him.

Anyway, Bettman and Fehr both illustrated how far apart they are, which runs counter to the guarded optimism of yesterday. Bettman has railed against the incomplete nature of the proposal, but that's grabbing at straws for me. The big issue here is to divide up the revenues. Everything else really doesn't have that far to go, based on the owners' proposal. 10 years to free agency? It's seven now. Five-year entry level deals? It's three now. There are easy compromises there. Max-length deals won't be an contentious as some think it might. But while the players have presented something creative and given up some cash, the owners seemingly are sticking to their gimme-gimme-gimme tactics. And they can stick with them for a while, as they think the players will break eventually.

If you want a villain, it's the rich owners, who are simply being greedy. And one of them is local hero Rocky Wirtz. You better believe it. Rocky still pushes the fact that the Hawks lose money, which is utter crap. He can be one of the owners here claiming poor and demanding overhauls. Don't you buy it. Last year, the Hawks have an average ticket price of $55.74. And that's if you take that number for what it is, even though the most expensive seats and sky boxes actually probably make that number higher. If you take that number, it makes a pure ticket revenue of just under $50 million.

But I don't buy that number. With the luxury boxes and glass seats, I'm willing to bet that number is closer to 60 million. That's almost the payroll and ticket revenue a wash. When you throw in everything else, including the fact that almost every person in the 20,000 in attendance is wearing a jersey so the merchandise revenue must be through the roof, you can't really figure out how Rocky's losing money. It's not because his dad had a bloated staff, because we know that one of the major problems is that every department was kept at a threadbare level of employees.

Oh right, Rocky's buying his beer from himself and can shift those books however he wants.

Anyway, many miles to go before we sleep.

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